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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2016 :  05:05:23  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Escape from Undermountain last night and wasn't impressed. The same author that brought us Caledan Caldorien, Mari Al'Maren, and Talek Talembar now has a new 1/4 orc thief protagonist named Artek Ar'talen, *groan*.

Even still I wanted to like this book, and did for the early portion of it, despite the very comic-booky villain (the evil noble with designs on power and a strange bladed device in place of one hand). It turned for the worse with the undead pirate encounter. Every "Yaaar" and "Walk the plank, matey!" cliché was present, right down to the zombie parrot on the shoulder of the leader. I officially checked out after one particularly annoying combat scene involving the foppish dandy they were sent into Undermountain to rescue. I couldn't tell if the author was going for a really campy style or if it's just lazy writing, but this book didn't get a whole lot right, other than to showcase some of the more weirdly bizarre elements of Undermountain. It had a few ok moments, but overall was a big miss for me.

Up next is Murder in Cormyr. I have moderately high hopes for this story, as the series seemed to be an attempt to lure in more professional writers outside of the TSR stable, with credits in other sub-genres or publications outside of typical D&D fare (The New Yorker, Playboy, Esquire, etc.) Murder in Tarsis was a pretty good effort in the Dragonlance line, and I'm hoping Cormyr is equal to the task.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
30338 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2016 :  05:11:43  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I finished Escape from Undermountain last night and wasn't impressed. The same author that brought us Caledan Caldorien, Mari Al'Maren, and Talek Talembar now has a new 1/4 orc thief protagonist named Artek Ar'talen, *groan*.


I've not read that one in so long I've forgotten most of the elements of it... But I have commented before on that naming scheme. It bugs me almost as much as some of the names in the Harry Potter series.

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2016 :  13:49:27  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The *worst* part of Escape from Undermountain is by far the miniature model of Undermountain used by Halaster at the end...that was so bizarre. I still liked the book :) The introduction chapter where the rats eat everyone is so creepy and dark.

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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2016 :  15:30:46  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

The *worst* part of Escape from Undermountain is by far the miniature model of Undermountain used by Halaster at the end...that was so bizarre. I still liked the book :) The introduction chapter where the rats eat everyone is so creepy and dark.



I totally agree with you on that intro, it was terrific. That's why I mentioned how I liked this book early on, and thought I was in for a real treat. Then it turned goofy with the over-polite gargoyle, the annoying talking skull, and silly, self-aware quips like "But I thought women always fell for the roguish type!" when Beckla the mage chooses Corin over Artek at the very end.

Like I said, it had its moments - particularly the excellent beginning - but the overall silliness turned it into an opportunity squandered. I actually didn't hate the maze aspect as much as you, though I would've preferred the characters never actually meet and interact with Halaster. Much like the Dark Powers of the Ravenloft world, or Planescape's Lady of Pain, I like some mystery to remain and would prefer for Halaster to remain a nebulous, undefined plot device of Undermountain, rather than confronting this clichéd, cackling madman.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
30338 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2016 :  15:47:13  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

The *worst* part of Escape from Undermountain is by far the miniature model of Undermountain used by Halaster at the end...that was so bizarre.


That's pretty much the only part I remember... And I remember hating that part. Not because of the concept -- I like the concept! -- but because prior canon on Undermountain didn't even imply such a thing. I remember checking that.

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Cards77
Senior Scribe

USA
550 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2016 :  20:02:18  Show Profile Send Cards77 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

quote:
Originally posted by Seravin
I enjoyed that series. Morhion was the best character for me as well, I don't know why and Mari end up together though, it seems an odd pairing. Poor old Caledan.



Yeah, it was a funny ending. Caledan seemed to get thrown away like yesterday's trash, while Mari and Morhion, the guy who's defining characteristic is showing no emotion or human attachment, are implied to get together. But just months later, in the anthology Realms of Magic there is a short story about Morhion (The Magic Thief) that makes it fairly clear he is living alone in his tower. So I guess things with Mari just don't work out.

Speaking of that book, it is the 3rd and final that I finished in my marathon reading last week. I felt this collection of short stories was weaker than the previous two. For an anthology about magic, there was a curiously high number of stories featuring tech - smokepowder and firearms specifically. There were at least two, if not 3 stories involving guns, and the Morhion story had him create his own smokepowder bomb to blast a gate open after losing his magical powers temporarily. He used typical materials, charcoal and nitre from an alchemist shop he broke into - which I believe flies in the face of Realms canon regarding the rarity and complexity regarding the making of smokepowder. I've never paid too much attention to it, as I blanket-ban it from my campaigns. I just found it odd that an anthology dedicated to magical stories is chock full of firearms and non-magical weaponry. My distaste for guns in fantasy made all of these stories misses for me, although The Magic Thief was decent.

Even worse, the introduction with Justin Tym and Tym Waterdeep Limited. Ugghh... why this guy was allowed to write anything ever again after the abomination that was Once Around the Realms is utterly beyond me. Thankfully the Prologue and Epilogue were only a handful of pages, but even still... not a great way to kick it off.

Guenhwyvar was a decent story that shed some light on one of my favorite characters. Actually, to contradict that, it raised more questions than answers. In one of the RAS books it was stated that Guen is some kind of Astral personification of the Panther/Hunter spirit, but in this story she appears to have very mortal origins. There was no explanation as to why she is 3x larger than a typical panther and much more intelligent to boot. The odd circumstances of her being enchanted into the figurine (involving a portable hole) explain some of the anomalies between how she works vs. a typical Figurine of Wondrous Power, so that was good. A decent, but not great story.

The Quiet Place by Christie Golden might've been the best of an average bunch. I've yet to read a Jander story I haven't liked, and this one forced him into an agonizing, gut-wrenching decision. You just have to feel for this dude, he never catches a break.

The First Moonwell was an interesting history regarding the Earthmother and her Children. Not a great story as far as big events or excitement, but still a good and unique read.

Red Ambition is probably my favorite Jean Rabe offering, as I don't normally enjoy her work. I thought this was one of the more engaging stories in the collection.

conversely: The Direct Approach was my biggest disappointment of the bunch and easily my least favorite Elaine Cunningham work thus far. As the final story in the book I was really looking forward to a strong finish, but this one missed on all levels.

Six of Swords by William Connors was a creepy, effective tale, though the ending was weak.

Not specifically mentioned (and not enjoyed by me) are:
Smoke Powder and Mirrors - Jeff Grubb
The Eye of the Dragon - Ed Greenwood
Every Dog His Day - Dave Gross
The Common Spell - Kate Novak/Grubb (the best of the "misses" IMO)
The Luck of Llewellyn the Loquacious - Allen Kupfer
Too Familiar - David Cook
Thieves' Reward - Mary Herbert (another decent story)
The Wild Bunch - Tom Dupree
A Worm Too Soft - J. Robert King
Gunne Runner - Roger E. Moore

After a bit of a rest, tomorrow I will start in on Escape from Undermountain.





The other "Realms" short story compendiums are MUCH better.
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Cards77
Senior Scribe

USA
550 Posts

Posted - 02 May 2016 :  20:13:05  Show Profile Send Cards77 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

Last night I finished Daughter of the Drow. With each Cunningham story I finish I find myself more and more firmly on the Elaine bandwagon. This book was very well done. Her character development is a notch above most others. I disliked Liriel for much of the story, but she's starting to grow on me and I can see why she had to start the way she was, in order for her transformation (which I'm hoping to see more of in later novels) more believable and impactful. Fyodor was awesome right out of the gate. It's easy to fall into a trap writing "berserker" types, but she managed to give him some nuance and made a really interesting character.

If I can make one cynical observation, does she come a bit... uncomfortably close to RAS material at times?

- Drizzt and Liriel are both prodigiously talented "Wunderkind/Chosen One" types, each with demeanors that don't match the rest of their kind (though Liriel does have a lot more of the typical drow nastiness, to be fair). I suppose this is unavoidable in writing a drow protagonist, so I'll cut some slack there.

- As far as I know all drow have red eyes in both the visible light spectrum as well as infrared, aside from these two exceptions (purple for Drizzt, golden for Liriel).

- Nisstyre and Jarlaxle are both eccentric males (red hair on one, bald and outrageous fashion for the other) that are leaders of rogue drow companies comprised of dispossessed males, bent on making profit at any cost. Dragon's Hoard and Bregan D'Aerth share many similar qualities, though I guess DH has the added detail of wanting to overthrow Lolth's stranglehold on drow religious matters.

- lastly, it was mentioned very early on that Fyodor once had a snowcat companion. I immediately thought of Guenhwyvar, but this idea was let go and never further developed outside of that one sentence.

Now, I know some have said RAS's works mirror Tolkein's quite a bit, and I've always let that slide as a form of homage. So I'm trying to take the same view of Elaine's work. She clearly is a big fan of Menzoberranzan and all the Underdark groundwork RAS laid out, so maybe this is her following in his footsteps. I have no idea how many more Liriel stories there will be, it will be interesting to see where she takes what she's started here.



This is one of my favorite books. RAS did certainly copy a ton of material from Tolkien.

I don't however believe that Elaine's origin story about Leirel was anything other than a very slight nod at RAS's work.

A protagonist has to be compelling. Where Drizzt was compelling for his unwavering beliefs, Liriel was even more compelling for her ability to step in and out of different belief systems. All that gray area is MUCH more interesting.

As far as them all being prodigies, well..what else did you expect? An inept bumbling wizard?

To make her compelling and wrap all those things we love about the drow into the story including our favorite NPCs.

Glossing her as the spoiled, socialite daughter of an incredibly powerful archmage was perfect.

Would you prefer some struggling nobody of a lower house?

Talent is all about bloodlines.

And as with reality, gifted people are more likely to question the status quo and think outside the box, making both her and Drizzt's departure natural. As for her "softer side", she may have inherited that from her mother. The author alludes slightly to the fact that her mother was very caring toward her and may have been a "delicate flower" type, at least as far as a drow can be.

As for the Jarlaxle/Nisstrye similarities: it's well covered in the canon that Skullport and those associated with it are houseless males. Being houseless males or wider travelers in general would enable males to express their individuality. One could even argue that without the matriarchy power structure, males would make it a point to express their normally repressed (or rebellious) natures.

I'm sure that as with all races, drow that aren't under the oppression of the matriarchy express varying levels of self expression and that it's quite common, not uncommon.

Edited by - Cards77 on 02 May 2016 20:21:06
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 10 May 2016 :  18:53:13  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Murder in Cormyr a few nights ago. It wasn't quite what I expected, though it did grow on me very gradually as I made my way through. It checked all the requisite boxes, with several plausible suspects each with their own valid motives, and of course the mandatory surprise twist at the end. It started off a bit on the goofy/silly side, which always turns me off. But as I got used to the tone and vibe, I warmed up to it enough to consider it an average read. Not much else to say, it didn't really register a blip on the greater Realms story, being set in a sleepy, backwater village without much connection to anything other than a tenuous relation by marriage to the royal family. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a story has to have massive armies battling or gods altering the landscape to be an effective tale.

It was an"ok" read, neither boring nor compelling. I don't imagine it will engender much discussion here. Moving on, tonight I will begin Elaine Cunningham's Tangled Webs.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 10 May 2016 :  20:42:23  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion

I finished Murder in Cormyr a few nights ago. It wasn't quite what I expected, though it did grow on me very gradually as I made my way through. It checked all the requisite boxes, with several plausible suspects each with their own valid motives, and of course the mandatory surprise twist at the end. It started off a bit on the goofy/silly side, which always turns me off. But as I got used to the tone and vibe, I warmed up to it enough to consider it an average read. Not much else to say, it didn't really register a blip on the greater Realms story, being set in a sleepy, backwater village without much connection to anything other than a tenuous relation by marriage to the royal family. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a story has to have massive armies battling or gods altering the landscape to be an effective tale.

It was an"ok" read, neither boring nor compelling. I don't imagine it will engender much discussion here. Moving on, tonight I will begin Elaine Cunningham's Tangled Webs.



Hmmm while I don't like Realms-Shattering-Events at all, and don't mind at all when a novel keeps the world and the major NPCs like the Chosen or rulers etc intact and out of the picture, I also very much want the books to be set in the Forgotten Realms and to make references constantly to the setting/lore. Some of the books tend to be such that they could be set in ANY setting, and that is turn off for me.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2016 :  04:09:39  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin
Hmmm while I don't like Realms-Shattering-Events at all, and don't mind at all when a novel keeps the world and the major NPCs like the Chosen or rulers etc intact and out of the picture, I also very much want the books to be set in the Forgotten Realms and to make references constantly to the setting/lore. Some of the books tend to be such that they could be set in ANY setting, and that is turn off for me.



To be fair there were several mentions of Sembia, The Iron Throne, the Zhents, and other things that definitely tied this to FR as a setting, so it's not like the story existed in a complete void.

Moving on, tonight I finished Tangled Webs. This was a very strong book. Elaine's preparation for her last few books has really impressed me. From her bardic lore in Elfsong to her rune lore and general grasp of the Northmen culture in Tangled Webs, it seems like she always adds another element to her stories to elevate them. I particularly loved how the formation of the rune in Liriel's mind was not anything she could study in a book or learn from a mentor, but rather it was shaped over time by all the trials and tribulations, emotional highs and lows, anger and love, etc. Alignment shifts are something that have to be written very carefully or they come off as hokey and completely not believable. Liriel's character arc is very well done, she doesn't just flip a switch and change overnight, the process is gradual and ongoing.

I had a brief moment of personal levity on page 62 when the ship lands on Tetris - a small port island just north of the Moonshaes. When she described the buildings I couldn't help but replace in my mind the "squat stone structures" with the 2x2 blocks and the lodge or longhouse with the skinny 4x1 piece.

My reading order tells me up next is another anthology (so soon after just finishing one!) Realms of the Underdark.
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Irennan
Great Reader

Italy
2729 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2016 :  13:54:56  Show Profile Send Irennan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Tangled Webs is my favourite Liriel book (and possibly my favourite FR book ever), because of the growth that she experiences, and because of various little scenes scattered in the book, that I found touching in a singular way.

For example, when (transformed) Fyodor touches her with his wing, risking his life to save her from Lolth's madness, and she finally feels free from Lolth's shadow and to embrace her choice of life. Or their moment at the Yggdrasil, and the scene that comes later, after she reminds Fyodor that she could command him to kill the northern girl (don't remember her name)--that part made me feel for both.

Also, when Eilistraee dances with her as a protecting shadowy figure, and Fyodor watches from afar, glad to know that--even setting himself aside--Liriel was not alone in a hostile world (this little scene does a better job at capturing Eilistraee than other whole books do, IMO).

To all Facebook-using FR fans, you might be interested in checking out this page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/450517575051806/

Edited by - Irennan on 17 May 2016 22:00:12
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 24 May 2016 :  06:06:42  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I finished Realms of the Underdark a few nights ago. In a changeup from prior anthologies, this one only had a handful of stories, but they were all mini-novellas around ~80 pages.

Everything by Brian M Thomsen is a disaster, so right away we can simply throw out the Preface, the story Volo Does Menzo, and the Postscript. The less said about any of them, the better, as I'm trying to purge them from my mind. Cutting those out, the remainder are:

The Fires of Narbondel by Mark Anthony - a Zaknafein tale written by someone other than RAS. I was highly skeptical going in. I read somewhere that this author was tabbed to continue the Drizzt line (must've been some contractual issues to work out with RAS?) but then his novel went unpublished and Bob was brought back into the fold, to which I'm grateful. You hate to see a man's creation be handed over to someone else, it's the ugly side of business. So I don't know if this short was just a warmup to give Anthony some practice in this environment or what, but to his credit he did an acceptable job with Zak, Matron Malice, and Menzoberranzan in general. An oddity I've never thought about until now: why does Gromph, the highest ranking archwizard in the city, have to spend a few minutes each night doing something as menial as lighting up their timepiece? Surely some underling wizard could be delegated this responsibility? I guess it must be the Lolth priestesses way of throwing the ultimate insult towards the male-dominated practice of arcane wizardry - saying that the pinnacle of your craft is given less respect than even the greenest acolyte of our faith. Poor Gromph, I'm surprised he hasn't devised some simulacrum to do it for him, so that he might plane travel, continue his studies, or any number of things without this added distraction. That aside, the story was pretty decent.

A Slow Day in Skullport by Ed Greenwood - I find most of Ed's stories to be frenetic and sometimes unfollowable. It's like he's so excited to showcase this fantastic world he created, he just throws everything and the kitchen sink into each tale, forgetting that readers are never going to have the same depths of understanding that he does. You can't read 10 words without some new creature rising up from the ground, or swooping down out of the sky, or teleporting onto the scene, and then there are always a dozen or more magical flashes and effects going off simultaneously, sometimes I have no idea what is going on. Who were the two sorceresses being magically dragged around the city at the end? Even reading the "Dramatis Personae" explanations really didn't help much. Now, one might argue that was the entire point of this story - to showcase how such madcap activity is not infrequent in a bustling, dangerous place like Skullport, but this same kind of pacing seems to be prevalent in his Elminster and Shandril works as well, so I think it's just his particular style. Sometimes it works and is exciting, but other times it just leaves me bewildered.

Rite of Blood by Elaine Cunningham - good, solid prequel story on Liriel before she leaves Menzoberranzan. Not as exceptional as most of her work, but still pretty high quality. Seeing her learn and master the wicked, deceptive ways of the drow in this story make the transformation we see in the other novels (particularly Tangled Webs) all the more compelling.

Sea of Ghosts by Roger Moore - a somewhat odd story of a svirfneblin and a derro that escape drow captivity and choose to work together. The characters were quirky but endearing. Geppo (the derro) read like some bizarre amalgam of Gollum and Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys, and Wykar (the deep gnome) was honorable and duty-bound on the surface but was hiding a terrible and painful deception that didn't become apparent to me until close to the end. I think I might have liked this story the best of the bunch, it had some great moral ambiguity, some good twists and surprises, and a satisfying, pull-no-punches ending. Weird, but definitely enjoyable.

I've started in on and am hoping to finish The Veiled Dragon before vacation, otherwise I won't update this thread for a while.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 24 May 2016 :  20:47:40  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
I've started in on and am hoping to finish The Veiled Dragon before vacation, otherwise I won't update this thread for a while.


Fasten your seat belt. The opinions are strong on this one!
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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USA
30338 Posts

Posted - 24 May 2016 :  21:38:44  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've not read it in years, myself, but I recall enjoying it. And it's part of the reason I refer to Denning as being hit-or-miss. Some of his stuff I've quite enjoyed, other stuff I've quite disliked.

And that seems to be the trend with him, for other readers, I've noted... There doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground, there.

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 26 May 2016 :  18:16:30  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Parched Sea was a good book, but this is a rare occassion where Wooly and I don't see eye to eye on novels as I found The Veiled Dragon to be a hot mess of a book.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
30338 Posts

Posted - 26 May 2016 :  18:26:25  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

The Parched Sea was a good book, but this is a rare occassion where Wooly and I don't see eye to eye on novels as I found The Veiled Dragon to be a hot mess of a book.



It's likely been at least 10 or 15 years since I read it. If I read it today, I might have a different opinion.

My reading of Realms novels dropped considerably during the 3E era, when they started doing the classes novels and when the quality of the cover art went to crap. Since then, I've prolly only read about 20 or 30 new Realms novels, and for older novels, I've only revisited faves, like Elaine's stuff or the Kate Novak-Jeff Grubb novels. There's just been too much other stuff to read, and far too little time to read it.

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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 31 May 2016 :  06:46:42  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

The Parched Sea was a good book, but this is a rare occassion where Wooly and I don't see eye to eye on novels as I found The Veiled Dragon to be a hot mess of a book.



Hmmm... and I thought it was a rather average story that didn't stand out one way or the other. I recall way back when I did my write-up of Parched Sea that you and Wooly spoke a bit about The Veiled Dragon, and I had that in the back of my mind as I finished it up last week, but found nothing that made me feel strongly in a positive or negative sense.

You say "hot mess" and back on page 3 of this thread refer to it as something like: the worst Harper novel, if not the worst FR novel in the line. I'm not saying it's a great book, but I just can't see anything in it that would elicit such a strong statement. If you're referring to the silly, old-timey stereotypical "Oriental" (I know that term is offensive, I use it to illustrate the point) speech patterns used by the Kara-Turans, yeah, that was an odd stylistic choice. Not only that, but completely unnecessary, being that Kara-Tur is *not* China, so there's no need to make their peoples possess a similar accent when speaking Faerunian Common. If this deeply offended you I can see where the book would be hard to stomach. It was a dumb addition by Denning and probably something that would get him in trouble in 2016, but I'm not a very PC person by nature and it only registered as a minor distraction in my reading.

I'm trying to think of other elements that you hated... the Harper supervisor that Ruha reported to was a major butthead. Prince Tang was an odd character, variably weak and simpering, but sometimes strong and deadly - I didn't like him but not enough to ruin anything for me.

I know you love stories with dragons, and this tale had one, albeit a dead one. I just can't see anything that would make you hate it so vehemently. I found it to be a pretty average book, almost exactly on the median baseline of quality for the FR novel line. So you're going to have to help me out on this one Seravin, for I am stumped.

I've since started on the Netheril Trilogy with Sword Play and am having a hard time getting through it.
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
4920 Posts

Posted - 31 May 2016 :  07:27:58  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion
I've since started on the Netheril Trilogy with Sword Play and am having a hard time getting through it.



I started it a couple of months ago to mine it for Netheril lore but have stalled mightily. Not engaging at all and not enough FR information to keep me ploughing through it.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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Madpig
Learned Scribe

Finland
127 Posts

Posted - 31 May 2016 :  08:29:32  Show Profile Send Madpig a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

quote:
Originally posted by VikingLegion
I've since started on the Netheril Trilogy with Sword Play and am having a hard time getting through it.



I started it a couple of months ago to mine it for Netheril lore but have stalled mightily. Not engaging at all and not enough FR information to keep me ploughing through it.

-- George Krashos




I think im in minority when i say it was quite nice read. I took me 2 tries to make it trough though. It helped me a lot, when 2nd time around i read some other fantasy before it. I kinda not thought it as Realmsbook per se.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 31 May 2016 :  14:53:38  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm re-reading The Veiled Dragon now, with an open mind. The dialogue of "Engrish" for the Shou characters is abysmal. I don't remember if any Realms novel did this so much, but why would they speak common in that manner? Is it supposed to be funny? Is it so we will know they are not white people?
Some other elements that irked me a lot - everyone treating Ruha like some bumbling incompetent because of "Voonlar" which, um...what? That made no sense that the Harpers would blame Ruha for what happened, and if a slaver took away children and women and the Harpers didn't stop it because Ruha was not able to pass as a Dales-raised serving wench...that's not on her. Vaerana Hawklyn was a total asshat to everyone, why are we made to dislike her so? She's supposed to be a Harper and hero and this book paints her as needless rude and unreasonable to everyone. Are we to believe that she would be totally oblivious to a Cult worshipping priest of Mask being her RIGHT HAND MAN (Tombor?) given how untrusting and suspicious she is all the time?
Also - Ruha slew three dragons in the desert? I guess this happened off pages some how, because I don't see the Parched Sea Ruha taking on dragons by herself and living the tale. But of course, a woman who single handedly takes down 3 dragons can't handle a single slaver in a Voonlar tavern? Um...what? Seems to me if she can survive being blown up on a ship and having her bones exposed by shark bites right afterwards, she's a Mary Sue and can do pretty much anything.
I could go on (and maybe will when I finish this re-read), but I just don't get this novel. Denning is SO hit or miss for me. And when he misses, yikes.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 04 Jun 2016 :  07:14:30  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Seravin

I'm re-reading The Veiled Dragon now, with an open mind. The dialogue of "Engrish" for the Shou characters is abysmal. I don't remember if any Realms novel did this so much, but why would they speak common in that manner? Is it supposed to be funny? Is it so we will know they are not white people?
Some other elements that irked me a lot - everyone treating Ruha like some bumbling incompetent because of "Voonlar" which, um...what? That made no sense that the Harpers would blame Ruha for what happened, and if a slaver took away children and women and the Harpers didn't stop it because Ruha was not able to pass as a Dales-raised serving wench...that's not on her. Vaerana Hawklyn was a total asshat to everyone, why are we made to dislike her so? She's supposed to be a Harper and hero and this book paints her as needless rude and unreasonable to everyone. Are we to believe that she would be totally oblivious to a Cult worshipping priest of Mask being her RIGHT HAND MAN (Tombor?) given how untrusting and suspicious she is all the time?
Also - Ruha slew three dragons in the desert? I guess this happened off pages some how, because I don't see the Parched Sea Ruha taking on dragons by herself and living the tale. But of course, a woman who single handedly takes down 3 dragons can't handle a single slaver in a Voonlar tavern? Um...what? Seems to me if she can survive being blown up on a ship and having her bones exposed by shark bites right afterwards, she's a Mary Sue and can do pretty much anything.
I could go on (and maybe will when I finish this re-read), but I just don't get this novel. Denning is SO hit or miss for me. And when he misses, yikes.




Well, tell us how you really feel Seravin :)

I can't really disagree with what you said, those are all legitimate issues. I don't recall the line of Ruha boasting about killing 3 dragons. Perhaps they were some kind of giant desert lizards and she is errantly referring to them as dragons? I don't see it in her character to lie much or act arrogant, so perhaps it's just a terminology mistake attributed to her lack of worldly knowledge outside of Anauroch?

I already spoke on how silly and unnecessary the "Engrish" angle was, so you'll get no argument from me there. Also, like you, I mentioned how disagreeable and unlikeable Vaerana was, but I don't have as much a problem with that as you, and here's why:

No organization, now matter how noble or lofty their intentions, are going to be able to maintain 100% purity or clarity of purpose. I'm a big believer in the Peter Principle and organizational ineptitude in general, mainly because I see it in full force every time I walk in to work. Nepotism, lackeyism, and overall incompetence strikes everywhere - even in a group like the Harpers where I'm guessing every candidate should be heavily researched and vetted before gaining entry. The sad fact is, bad eggs slip through even the most stringent "hiring" policies, and not every Harper is going to be a paragon of virtue and courage. Vaerana is an "asshat" as you said, but maybe she has shown great effectiveness at getting certain types of jobs done in the past, so her somewhat unsavory attitude is just part of the package. As far as not realizing Tambor was a cleric of Mask, well that's not a great showing for Vaerana, but he is a god of stealth and deception, so....

If Harper spies can infiltrate Zhent or CotD sects to rescue prisoners or steal plans, the bad guys also have to win a few times too, right? Every Harper agent can't have a 100% James Bondian success rate. For every superstar that defies impossible odds to obtain the most unlikeliest of victories, there has to be 3-4 agents who fail in their job and barely escape with their lives, or are captured, tortured, and die unspeakably horrific deaths. But that doesn't exactly make for great, heroic storytelling. Imagine a 10 part series titled "The Failed Harpers", wherein each installment is a major Harper mission going pear-shaped and the bad guys win. Probably wouldn't go over all that well and would be a major bummer.

To give a real-world comparison, I tend to think of the Harpers as I do a police force. 9 out of 10 are good people, well trained and effective at what they do (but not superheroes). That 10th one though... he could range from anywhere between being lazy and just barely passed the minimum criteria, but was accepted due to flagging numbers or had some "inside" help from a sponsor, all the way to being a borderline sociopath that enjoys the power-trip of carrying superior firepower and lording his authority over everyone around him.

Another substandard Harper might be a bored noble who joins just to piss off her parents, using money to smooth over the process of obtaining that pin. In the same manner that some people donate to charity and then make sure ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE around them knows about it (which is not in the true spirit of charity), this person might only become a Harper as a show of how "good" they are to everyone around.

You'd like to think the Harpers' hiring standards would weed out these types, but it can't be that easy to find willing candidates to embrace such a dangerous lifestyle. Sometimes you have to take what's available and that might mean relaxing the vetting process from time to time. I know, I know, it's not the tales of heroes and legends, but it's more realistic to assume some who harp might not have the right stuff, than to assume every one of them is perfect. In the Shadowking books we saw the Harpers utilize an assassin to hunt down and attempt to kill another Harper agent that refused an order, so obviously the organization isn't always in perfect harmony on how to achieve their goals.

Sorry if that bummed you out, but I like the idea of a little occasional dirt and tarnish on those shiny silver pins.
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VikingLegion
Learned Scribe

USA
276 Posts

Posted - 05 Jun 2016 :  05:50:08  Show Profile Send VikingLegion a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos
I started it a couple of months ago to mine it for Netheril lore but have stalled mightily. Not engaging at all and not enough FR information to keep me ploughing through it.

-- George Krashos



I was incredibly excited to start this series, as my favorite aspect of the Realms is not the contemporary setting, but rather its old kingdoms (Netheril, Myth Drannor, the Imaskari, etc.) After struggling mightily just to get to page 100 I hunkered down the last 2 nights and knocked out the final 2/3 of this book. But it was real nose-to-the-grindstone type work. I had so many issues with this book, I'm not sure where to begin. I'll start with a small nitpick and work my way up:

He uses the term palantir to describe a crystal ball the wizards use for communication purposes. If I'm not mistaken, and the interwebs seem to agree (if someone finds otherwise let me know), that is a particular artifact(s) specific to JRR Tolkein's Middle Earth, and not a common term for use in general fantasy. That would be like buying a ring of invisibilty at a Waterdeep mage shop and saying "hey cool, I just got the One Ring." His use of palantir didn't bug me a ton, rather it made me curious enough to look it up. More of a faux-pas than a grievous error.

I'll take a quick break for some positive and neutral observations:

I liked how he portrayed Netherese decadence and excess, very Rome-like, with the added arrogance that mastery of magic would bring to the table. I thought Sysquemalyn (sp?) was a strong crazy-pants villainess and acted with the right amount of recklessness you'd see in the terminally bored, ultra-rich elite.

I was a bit surprised by the language and a bit of risqué content. I'm not sure if I can even type it here on this forum without drawing ire, but a word that starts with "s" and ends with "hit" was used at least a half-dozen times, 3 or 4 instances in one paragraph alone. Also, as part of one of their wagers, the wizardess explicitly states she wants to cut off the male wizard's uh, "member" if she should win the bet. Later on, the barbarian, while trying to desperately to hold off the amorous advances of a temptress, is "betrayed by his male body" in a manner that leaves absolutely no doubt as to what biological reaction is taking place under his loincloth.

I don't have a problem with any of the above. Far from it, I actually prefer fantasy of a more adult-oriented nature. I guess I was just more than a little bit surprised that a TSR novel from the mid-90s would contain such material.

Ok, back to the bad stuff:
I thought the story was mediocre, not great but not terrible. But what really annoyed me was some of the language and phrasing. I find something about this author's writing style extremely jarring. He uses some of the oddest words - hoick, stippled, clittered, tonked - just to name a few. By the way don't look up "clitter" if you are at work. The actual meaning is "to make a thin, vibratory, rattling sound. But you'll have to get through a multitude of other meanings before you find that one, if you get my drift.

I had never heard any of these words before, and I consider myself to have a well-above average vocabulary. It wasn't hard to ken the meaning of most/all of them based simply on context, but surely he could've used less oddball terminology? His bio says he worked as an Australian schoolteacher, so maybe it's more common lingo in that region. Oh and he couldn't seem to go 3 pages without using "scooched". I don't know why that bugged me so much, but it did.

After spending 9/10ths of the book as the BBEG, Sysquemalyn suddenly turns sane, good, and helpful at the end in one of the least believable character transformations I've read.

The author continually mixes up and swaps undead and demons/devils - referring to ghouls and ghasts as "fiends" (which could be a simple flavor choice but if you're writing specifically for D&D you should avoid this) and referring to baatezu as undead, and the Nine Hells as "the land of the unliving". I just didn't feel like the author had a very good grasp of the Dungeons and Dragons universe.

I could go on but I'm worn out. I thought about taking a break from this series and going with my publication date chronology, but decided I'd best stick with the momentum and power through the rest - like eating all your broccoli before moving to the good stuff. That said I started in on book 2: Dangerous Games.

Edited by - VikingLegion on 08 Jun 2016 18:39:09
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
793 Posts

Posted - 05 Jun 2016 :  10:58:53  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
"As far as not realizing Tambor was a cleric of Mask, well that's not a great showing for Vaerana, but he is a god of stealth and deception, so...."

I've been re-reading this book and Tombor is the WORST priest of Mask ever. He is written like a childhood comic villain, I found at least 3 occassions where Ruha asks him "so who is your god" and instead of lying he's like "oh you don't need to know, my god is not very braggy, he likes to be quiet and hide in the shadows" or just refuses to answer, etc.. So basically Tombor won't lie about his god but doesn't come out and say its Mask. So yeah, I am pretty sure if I have a priest on my team who is my right hand person in the Harpers I'm going to need to know what God he worships. And Ruha figures out he's a bad guy VERY quickly, so I guess Ruha is just that much smarter than every Harper in Elversult (the reader could figure out he's shifty from the first time he's introduced).

I do like that Harpers screw up and lose once in a while, that's fine. I just don't like that every Harper in the veiled dragon blames Ruha for Voonlar and calls her a bumbling incompetent and uses the phrase "this is WORSE THAN VOONLAR" about 50 times whenever something goes wrong.

Edited by - Seravin on 05 Jun 2016 10:59:58
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 05 Jun 2016 :  15:35:32  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
One of the issues I had with the Return of the Archwizards books was that Denning's white hats were the only ones capable of making intelligent decisions -- even with one of his white hats telling one of the established ones what needed to be done, the established one would then do whatever it took to make the situation worse.

It sounds, from what you're saying, like those books weren't the first time he'd done that.

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dazzlerdal
Great Reader

United Kingdom
3545 Posts

Posted - 06 Jun 2016 :  23:30:02  Show Profile Send dazzlerdal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Im pretty sure it was stated in one of eds sourcebooks (either the ogb or elminsters guide to the realms) that to ask someone what deities they worshipped (because it also stated most venerated several at once) is considered the height of rudeness and would likely result in the enquirer being beaten (if done someplace public) or getting a lie or terse remark.

D&Ds mistake of portraying only divine caster classes as part of the clergy has only exacerbated the issue because such classes can only have one patron according to the rules.

The proportion of npcs with classes was meant to be low but at some point got polluted into clerics only priesthoods.
Why can a fighter not serve the role of priest of tempus. Why cant an expert fill the role of a priest of deneir. Why cant a classless no mark function as a priest of jergal. All you need to gain more recruits to your faith is some charisma and an unshakeable belief.

I really thing a setting as complex as FR would have benefitted more by being tied to a classless system.

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